Swine Flu Myths: Wash Your Hands, Eat the Bacon

The threat of a global pandemic of swine flu has not only threatened the economic recovery, it’s put one of America’s greatest love affairs on the rocks.


I am, of course, speaking of bacon.

Wavy strips of sizzling, smoky goodness that turn any meal into an outstanding achievement in culinary AWESOMENESS.

Bacon survived the health-food revolution, the rise of vegetarianism and the campaign against red meat. (Remember: Pork is the other white meat.) But now, as the swine-flu outbreak brings back memories of bird flu, many consumers are worried they’ll get sick from eating bacon, pork or other pig products.

Several countries, including Russia and China have banned North American pork products. Hog prices have fallen sharply, and shares of the nation’s largest hog and pork producer, Smithfield Farms , have tumbled more than 20 percent in the past few weeks.

"Bacon has been around for thousands of years. It has survived numerous health scares," said Heather Lauer, author of the all-bacon all-the-time blog BaconUnwrapped.com and the upcoming book, "Bacon: A Love Story."

"Anyone who attempts to capitalize on this recent event in an effort to destroy the best meat ever will fail," she added.

Well let's set the record straight. It's about time we cleared bacon’s tasty good name.

Here are some common swine-flu myths—debunked:

You can get swine flu if you are exposed to pigs.
TRUE. People can contract swine flu from exposure to infected pigs, according to the World Health Organization. It is a highly contagious respiratory disease, so if you are in regular close contact with pigs, it is advised that you exercise good hygiene to avoid being infected.

If someone you know has a pet pig, they should get rid of it.
FALSE. Pigs get swine flu from other pigs. So, unless that pet pig has recently traveled to Mexico to visit friends (Pigs on Spring Break!) or been around other pigs that may be infected, it should be OK. Still, monitor the pig and call your vet if it develops flu or other abnormal symptoms.

You can’t get swine flu if you weren’t near pigs.
FALSE. Even if your only contact with pigs was on the Muppet Show, you can get swine flu if you’re around someone who has been in contact with pigs. And, it’s an airborne virus, so you can pick it up if an infected person coughs or sneezes. To be clear, human-to-human transmission is generally limited to close contact and closed groups, the WHO says. But, the window is wide: You can catch it from an infected person one day before their symptoms develop and up to seven days — or more — after they become sick, the CDC says.

Avoiding travel will prevent infection.
FALSE. While the CDC advises travelers to avoid any unnecessary trips to Mexico until the outbreak is under control, you can still catch it — right in your own back yard! If a neighbor, colleague or classmate traveled to Mexico and was infected, you could be infected after having contact with that person. Both the CDC and WHO advise doing as your mother told you: Wash your hands in hot, soapy water, stop touching your face, and cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze. Plus, get your rest, eat well and drink plenty of water to stay healthy. When you’re run down, that’s when you’re more susceptible to any flu virus.

Wearing a face mask is ridiculous.
FALSE. Since swine flu is an airborne virus, it can help decrease your chances of contracting the virus if you wear a face mask. Currently, the CDC is only recommending that people in contact with a sick person wear the mask. They advise that the mask be N-95 to keep out small, infectious particles. But, it’s important to know that the mask isn’t a 100-percent guarantee, so you should still do what your mother told you and wash your hands, cover your mouth … (See above. Or just call your mom.)

And finally, the moment you've all been waiting for ...

You can get swine flu from eating pork, bacon or other pig products.
FALSE, FALSE and FALSE! Memories of sick Thai picnickers are still fresh in many people’s minds from the bird-flu outbreak, so many people assume that with swine flu, you can catch it from eating pig products. Not true, say both the WHO and CDC:

“Swine influenza has not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating properly handled and prepared pork (pig meat) or other products derived from pigs. The swine influenza virus is killed by cooking temperatures of 160°F/70°C corresponding to the general guidance for the preparation of pork and other meat,” the WHO reports on its Web site.

Bacon lovers, rejoice!

“I don't think anyone should ever be afraid of bacon,” said Megan Woo, creator of the food blog IHeartBacon.com. “Of all the things we do on a daily basis that are slowly killing us, bacon is the least of our worries.”

"It is a scientific fact that you cannot catch swine flu from eating pork products," Lauer added. "[E]veryone should continue consuming their normal levels of bacon. I would even argue that everyone should increase their bacon consumption in solidarity. If we don’t, then swine flu wins."

Well said, ladies. Now, let’s let America get back to doing what America does best: Wrapping things in bacon.

Figs and bacon, anyone?

Bacon-Flavored Pony Treats:

Bacon Bits. There's no shortage of smoky goodness online: There's The Bacon Show, a bacon-recipe-a-day site, among others. The New York Times did a feature on the ultimate bacon lover's recipe: “The Bacon Explosion.” Life.com took us on a walk through bacon history with the Bacon Slideshow. And, for those who wear their bacon love on their sleeves, Divine Caroline offers Ten Ways to Show Your Bacon Love. Here's one guy who doesn't need any help showing his bacon love, Mr. Bacon Pants. And, the delicious bite-sized taste of Bacon Haiku.

Totally Kosher. Self-proclaimed "bacontreprenuers" Justin Esch and Dave Lefkow have defied the economic curve and launched a a successful business mid-recession. What super-product could defeat such economic odds? Bacon! They combined their two favorite flavors to create Bacon Salt, then went on to other products, including Baconnaise. Neither has actual bacon in it. (Literally combining salt+bacon is actually disgusting, Esch said in an interview.) So, they're totally vegetarian and totally kosher! You can read all about it on the Bacon Salt Blog.

Questions? Comments? Write to ponyblog@cnbc.com.